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Old December 21st, 2004, 05:49 PM   #1
Doug_Adam
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Technology levels

The concept of technology levels.

Projects running late, all must be done by Christmas.
Too much coffee, not enough sleep. Stress way up.
Sanity threatening to go on strike.

Cause, put two new high tech machines in a low tech plant.

So, what do you do?
Put in a new plant, the best that technology can provide, only to hear the operator say "Flashing lights, oh no, Grog hate flashing lights" then watch him run away and try to hide.
Or do you create something powered by a water wheel that, while low tech and inefficient, can at least be understood by the plant operators?

So, last night my sleep deprived mind came up with the concept of technology levels (actually, it stole them from a computer game, but never mind).

Now, it is just a matter of classifying you end users plant and you know what level to design at.

The levels:

Level 0, Unpowered hand tools only, such as saws, hammers, chisels etc. Some of these places still exist, and can be prevalent in the lower tech places in the world. Human muscle is the power and skill is the control system.

Level 1, Powered tools. This can be as low as an electric drill, or as high as electric pumps and lathes, and other powered tools. At this level, most things are powered but entirely under manual control. The skill of the operator entirely governs the output.

Level 2, Low tech automation. This would be your drum or relay control. Perhapse stand alone pid control. Could even be machine tools run off a template. Sections of the plant will need to be started and stopped by the operator, but generally the operator can turn his back on them for a moment and still have the machine run OK. In some cases the operator will have to control some deviced or processes manually. No PLC here.

Level 3, PLC, DCS or CNC machines. The level 2 processes are taken over by full central computer control. Since this is a PLC site, I will concentrate on the PLC component. Control is similar to level 2, but tends to be easier, with more indicators and instrumentation. Positioning control would be by either single or pole changing DOL motors, or basic VSD.

Level 4, HMI. The machine is PLC controlled as per level 3, but has an addition of a HMI panel of PC based SCADA system. The HMI would be either a touch panel, or a key operated panel with a display screen of 6 inches or larger. This level greatly improves diagnostics and ease of operation, but is not for the more technophobic cultures.

Level 5, Advanced positioning control. Positioning control is via either a servo controller, or encoder (incremental or absolute). Movements are faster and more precise, productivity goes up, but well trained technicians are required to maintain and fault find these systems.

Level 6, Field Bus. Device net, profibus, ethernet - and others. Easy to install and wire up, can be hard to maintain for lower tech inclined personnel.

Other levels can be added for areas currently outside my experience.

My problem, tried to install a level 6 machine (with all the level 5 stuff) in a level 2 plant.
Should have limited it to a level 3 max.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 06:01 PM   #2
marksji
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Now that's one good breakdown... I've seen most (not quite level 0 and few 1) of those in the cotton ginning industry... Its always hard to leave a plat at level 6 just to drive down the road to a plant at level 2 or 3...
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Old December 21st, 2004, 06:04 PM   #3
harryting
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I think we can all say "been there, done that"

I guess someone forgot to involve you in the initial design phase of the project, right?

Now the trick is to get someone there to sign off on the "project acceptance" line then RUN -> change phone # -> change pager # -> change name.

But you are allowed to come back and post question like "What's the difference between a power drill and a plc?"
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Old December 21st, 2004, 06:31 PM   #4
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What level would this be:

ABB DCS with its own IO also communicating with AB PLCs via datahighway and a Johnson Controls MetaSys (for building management). The ABB DCS is the HMI and controls batch processes using TCL scripting which in turn controls its own IO and AB PLC IO. The PLCs also have logic that is independent of the ABB that is used for certain processes. They have to flip between being a slave and a master depending on what is going on with the equipment they are attached to. The ABB is the HMI for the PLCs regardless though.

So to work on this you have to understand Unix (ABB), TCL scripting (ABB), AB Ladder, S800 IO network (ABB), TokenRing network (ABB), ABB Display Builder, ABB environment configuration, ABB historian configuration, and Oracle (ABB).

Oh.. Almost forgot, we have several PCs hung on the edges to perform batch reporting. They run Linux and OpenSQL among other custom written apps.

After reading back over this I'm sure I've forgotten a bunch. My head hurts now...
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Old December 21st, 2004, 09:35 PM   #5
Doug_Adam
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Cmedico,

You plant would be a level 4 and level 6.

It skipped level 5.

You just shot a hole through my classification system.

Maybe we could classify depending on what they have, like level 3 or level 4,5 and 6.

There are also basic and more advanced steps in the level.

Example, level 5 at its most basic would be a servo controller for positioning. At its more advanced level could be a six axis servo controller.

Your plant would be an advanced 4 and 6.

Doug
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Old December 21st, 2004, 10:16 PM   #6
Thomas Sullens
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Great idea

You could also use at what point you have to start explaining what the abbreviations stand for as an indicator of what your getting into.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 10:24 PM   #7
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Doug--good system but can we put an adder on? A +1 is a level heading upward to the next higher level, and a -1 is....

I've worked for all but a 6 level company in my career. From a company that couldn't spell PLC to one that can't turn on the building lights without one. You learn a certain respect when you work for the whole range.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 10:45 PM   #8
bernie_carlton
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We tend to produce level 2 through 4 machines which are going into level 2 through 4 plants. Sometimes, by an incredible stroke of luck, the levels match. When they don't it's LOTS of fun.
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Old December 22nd, 2004, 12:09 AM   #9
Peter Nachtwey
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Interesting concept. A sales/marketing thought.

If all the companies were rated it would make it easier to filter out which companies we, specifically sales and marketing, should target to sell our motion products. We could even give discounts to level 6 companies because they should require less support. Level 4 companies should take training to be upgraded.

I know that companies that have the technology like to flaunt it as long as it isn't a trade secret. The highly rated companies may advertise that they are level 6 if they know their competitors are level 5.

Now think of the customers of the level rated companies. Would they be influenced to buy from a level 4 company over a level 2?

Wow, now who does the ratings?
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Old December 22nd, 2004, 05:19 AM   #10
Ken Moore
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I understand your pain. The facility where I work is split into three departments, one is level 3, one is level 4, and one is a 6. I think 5 & 6 should be switched. We don't have any level 5 stuff because we're a chemical processing plant.
The level 6 area was upgraded from 2 to 6 around 1997. What a nightmare. Every time anything happened the cause was "The New System".
We had extensive training for all operators and mechanics, had them sign off on the training. Six months latter....same old story "The New System" screwed up again. It took about 3 years to get over this, part of the cure was an influx of new people, they accepted the system and moved on. Some of the old timers still blame the system for every hiccup.

Good Luck,

Ken
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Old December 22nd, 2004, 06:33 AM   #11
cmedico
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Re: Great idea

Quote:
Originally posted by Thomas Sullens
You could also use at what point you have to start explaining what the abbreviations stand for as an indicator of what your getting into.
Thanks Thomas,

I needed a good laugh to get me going this morning.

Ken, Are you in the Greenville SC area? I'm originally for Travelers Rest SC but now I'm in RTP NC.

I like the ideas of the levels to help categorize basic hardware setups. I think you need to add width to the column and make it a matrix with the horizontal axis being software complexity or such. That would draw a more complete picture.

As an example, from my experience you can have a very simple HMI or it can spread into a full Distributed Control System. They might be at the same level but one is a lot more work to administrate than the other. Also batch processes have their own complexities over continuous control and vice versa.

FYI on me.. I started in general industrial automation and instrumentation. This lasted a few years until more of my attention was required strictly for pharmaceutical customers. For the last 15 or so years I've been in pharma exclusively. So if I write something that reads as bizarre or leaves you thinking "he's crazy" its because I don't live in the real world anymore. I know I sit around and think "these folks are crazy". Anybody got any spare ruby slippers in size 10?

Chris
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Old December 22nd, 2004, 08:05 AM   #12
Ken Moore
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Chris I'm about 30 miles from Greenville, closer to Spartanburg.
It's a nice place to work. Lots of industry, several Engineering firms, all the big automation companies have local vendors.


Ken
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Old December 22nd, 2004, 08:41 AM   #13
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Doug,

What you are missing is how well the level is implemented.

I've spent some time in a company with Level 6 that routinely dies and needs to be reinitialized, Level 5 that doesn't work at all and has been band-aided around, Level 4 which doesn't help with much in the way of diagnostics (and often loses communication), Level 3 which was poorly configured and isn't robust at all, and primarily runs like a Level 2 or (in some places) Level 1 company.

Argh!!!

Marc
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Old December 22nd, 2004, 09:59 AM   #14
Doug_Adam
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Thinking more about it, level 5 and 6 should be switched, for the reasons given.

5 = Field Bus

6 = Advanced positionin control

Although, I have found my level 2 plant also has some level 6 gear (Servo controllers, position selected by electromechanical drum).

Doug
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Old December 22nd, 2004, 10:06 AM   #15
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Marc,

I suppose if it is possible to do something, it is possible to stuff it up too.

Doug
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